I firmly believe that Bloody Marys can cure almost anything: boredom, the Sunday scaries, an otherwise-mediocre brunch spread. The tomato juice cocktails also have a reputation for being excellent hangover cures — a classic “hair of the dog” remedy. The idea is that drinking a little more alcohol takes the edge off of the nausea and headache caused by over-imbibing the night before.
The term “hair of the dog” comes from the expression “the hair of the dog that bit you,” which referred to an old-time-y method of treating rabid dog bites, wherein people would put actual fur taken from the dog that bit you onto your wound, according to Dictionary.com. Which… gross. Eventually, the term evolved. Now, the rabid dog that bit you is alcohol. And the hair you’re stuffing into your wound — ie, your brutal hangover — is more alcohol.
People who swear by hair of the dog usually have some kind of pseudoscientific explanation for why it works. You might have heard a variation of this: You experience hangover symptoms as your blood alcohol level begins to drop and your body begins to break down the alcohol. If you drink a bit more, your blood alcohol levels will increase and you’ll no longer experience the intense symptoms associated with a hangover and alcohol withdrawal. Sounds kind of reasonable, right? Wrong.
Obviously your blood alcohol levels have got to come down sometime, and when they do, that hangover you’re trying to avoid will find you. “It could make you feel better in the short term, but it’s just prolonging the inevitable withdrawal,” Abisola Olulade, MD, a family medicine physician based in San Diego, tells Refinery29. In fact, pouring more alcohol into your system when it’s already taxed will only wind up making you more dehydrated and depleted, ultimately intensifying your hangover once the additional alcohol you’ve consumed wears off, Dr. Olulade points out.
Plus, drinking to offset the effects of a hangover can very easily become a habit, and that’s not a cycle you want to get into. All things considered, then, Bloody Marys probably aren’t the answer to your Sunday morning hangover.
As for what we can do to alleviate a hangover, Dr. Olulade says the only thing that works is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Add in ample rest, too. “The two best cures are time and patience,” she says. So next time you wake up feeling rough, skip the boozy brunch and opt for some alone time with your bed, the back of your eyelids, and a 64 oz bottle of water instead. Your body will thank you later.
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